What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. It may also be regularly abused as a “study drug” to enhance focus and increase wakefulness; as a “crash diet drug” for its appetite-suppressing effects; and recreationally as a “party drug” for the heightened euphoria, energy, and excitability it can promote. A study at the University of Kentucky found that 30 percent of its students had abused an ADHD medication like Adderall at some point in their lives, CNN reports, which may represent a microcosm of a larger picture of college campuses around the country.
Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that is available in immediate-release (IR) or extended-release (ER) formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings regarding the possible dangerous side effects of the drug, including the potential for a life-threatening overdose when the medication is not taken as prescribed.
Adderall may be abused by taking it without a medical need, for recreational purposes, taking more of the dosage than prescribed, or by altering the drug to use in a way other than intended.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes Adderall as Schedule II since it has a high potential for abuse, diversion, and addiction, even though it does have legitimate medical uses as well. Abusing Adderall in any manner can be dangerous. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that in 2011, more than 17,000 people sought emergency department (ED) treatment for a negative reaction to an amphetamine-dextroamphetamine medication.
One of the major potential dangers of snorting Adderall is overdose, which can lead to coma, brain damage, or even death. The stimulant nature of the amphetamine in Adderall serves to raise heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration rates, and it makes changes to brain chemistry related to pleasure, appetite, sleep functions, energy levels, and concentration abilities.
When it is taken necessarily for medical reasons and working as prescribed, Adderall can help people focus, combat hyperactivity, and help balance some of the chemicals in the brain that are negatively affected by ADHD. When abused, the functions of the central nervous system may be increased to hazardous levels.
Adderall tablets or capsules are often crushed and then snorted for a more rapid “high.” Crushing and then snorting Adderall medication that has an extended-release format, like Adderall XR, bypasses the way the drug is supposed to be slowly released in set doses over a set period of time. Instead, it sends the entire amount of the drug into the bloodstream at once.
The brain may be overwhelmed by the amount of Adderall suddenly in its system and may not be able to safely break down the drug. Seizures, racing heart rate, hypertension, fever, severe confusion, and psychosis may be side effects of Adderall overdose, and these can result in stroke, heart attack, or death without swift medical treatment. Mixing other drugs or alcohol with Adderall only increases the risks.
Close to 30,000 Americans died from a prescription drug overdose in 2014, as published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Other Potential Dangers of Snorting Adderall
In addition to the high risk for an unintentional overdose, there are many other hazards specific to snorting Adderall, such as damage to the nasal and sinus cavity, respiratory infections, and lung damage.
Other side effects of Adderall abuse may include:
- Fast breathing
- Blurred vision
- Itching or rash
- Numbness in extremities
- Increased aggression and hostility
- Hallucinations or delirium
- Panic attacks or paranoia
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Changes in sex drive or sexual dysfunction
- Racing heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Potential damage to brain functions involving learning and memory
Adderall can increase the levels of some of the brain’s chemical messengers, like norepinephrine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, which are partially responsible for making people feel good by enhancing pleasure. These messengers also ready the body for anything that may come its way by increasing alertness and activating the “fight-or-flight” response.
These effects may be desirable, and someone abusing Adderall may be keen to recreate these good feelings. This is when dependence has formed. When the drug is then removed or its use is stopped, uncomfortable Adderall withdrawal symptoms, like depression, fatigue, insomnia, difficulties concentrating or thinking clearly, memory issues, tremors, and anxiety, may occur. Oftentimes, withdrawal symptoms are the opposite experience of an Adderall “high.”
Drug cravings and the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms may translate into drug-seeking behaviors and compulsive Adderall abuse. Snorting Adderall may lead to an increased risk for developing an addiction to the drug, NIDA reports, as it sends the drug more quickly into the brain, thus creating the chemical changes more rapidly than swallowing the drug may.
Spotting Adderall Abuse, Addiction & Behavioral Changes
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) published that in 2013, close to 1.5 million Americans aged 12 and older abused a prescription stimulant drug like Adderall at the time of, or in the month leading up to, the survey. Adderall abuse or addiction is associated with the following:
- Prescription bottles in belongings or trash even if there is no medical need for the drugs
- Going through prescriptions for Adderall faster than necessary
- Seeking out a prescription when it isn’t needed by manufacturing symptoms or “doctor shopping” (asking multiple doctors for the same prescription)
- Evidence of powder on clothes, the face, or around the nose and mouth
- Cutting, or drug-crushing, tools
- Snorting paraphernalia, such as razor blades, mirrors, straws, rolled-up dollar bills, and pen cases
- Unpredictable mood swings, from euphoric, focused, and energetic to depressed, violent, and anxious
- Significant weight loss and change in appetite levels
- Decline in physical appearance
- Drop in grades or trouble at work
- Potential financial strain due to spending money on Adderall
- Increased risky behaviors and drug use despite negative consequences
- Lack of interest or involvement in things not involving Adderall
- Social isolation or withdrawal and trouble with interpersonal relationships
- Increased secrecy
- Possible run-ins with law enforcement or legal troubles
- Unreliability and an inability to consistently keep up with obligations
- Drastic changes in sleeping habits, swinging from being awake for long periods of time to then “crashing” for hours or more
Adderall, when used as prescribed, may be beneficial for individuals battling ADHD; however, when someone is snorting Adderall and uses it outside of a medicinal purpose, it can be dangerous. Abuse of Adderall can potentially cause a life-threatening overdose or other medical complications, and lead to addiction.
Physical and Psychological Adderall Addiction Signs
Physical Adderall addiction signs can emerge shortly after use. Adderall triggers the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Prescribed users get a therapeutic benefit from it while recreational users who abuse this stimulant can get high. The following are some Adderall addiction signs of abuse:
- A sensation of excitement or being hyperactive
- Being talkative
- Thinking about things more than usual
- A feeling of impatience, worry, nervousness, and anxiety
- The illusion of wellness
- A desire to work
- Feeling social
- Getting insights about the meaning of life
These Adderall addiction signs would be perceptible to someone in the immediate environment of the person who is abusing Adderall. However, the people who are most likely to be concerned about the Adderall abuse may not be around when it’s going on. For this reason, it can be helpful to know the short-term effects of Adderall, which can linger long enough to be perceived by family, friends, work colleagues, and classmates. Some of the more commonly reported side effects of Adderall abuse are:
- Sleep difficulties (falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Shaking uncontrollably in an area of the body, such as a leg
- Changes in one’s level of sexual interest
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss or malnutrition
In addition, a person may experience mental health side effects such as Adderall addiction signs. Some of these symptoms are hallucinations and believing things that aren’t true. Serious side effects may be less common, but they can happen and it’s best to know what’s possible. The following are some of the most severe side effects associated with Adderall abuse:
- Exhaustion, fever, rash, or itching
- Shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or hoarseness
- Verbal or muscular tics
- Blistering or peeling skin, swelling of the throat, face, tongue, or eyes
- Pounding heartbeat or fast heart rate
- Chest pain
- Feeling faint, dizziness, or changes in vision
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- Slowed speech
Adderall abuse is also associated with long-term side effects. Adderall is exceptionally addictive, which means abuse runs the risk of developing into a stimulant use disorder. It has also been noted that when an individual stops using Adderall (i.e., goes into withdrawal), they may experience suicidal thoughts, mania, panic, or nightmares.
There does not appear to be extensive information available about the impact of Adderall or other stimulants on the major organs or the brain in the long term. Note, however, that the way Adderall is administered can impact one’s health on a long-term basis. A person who crushes, liquefies, and injects the drug may experience collapsed veins. Those who crush and sniff Adderall may damage their nasal cavity.
Reclaim Your Life From Abusing or Snorting Adderall
One of the major potential dangers of snorting Adderall is overdose, which can lead to coma, brain damage, or even death. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Adderall addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.